By Hannah Lang
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The dollar index was flat after data showed U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in July, while the yuan sank to a nine-month trough on Tuesday after China’s central bank unexpectedly cut key policy rates.
U.S. retail sales jumped 0.7% last month, the Commerce Department said, demonstrating that demand has remained resilient despite the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes to tame inflation, thanks to strong wage gains from a tight labor market.
The dollar index, which measures the currency against six peers including the euro and sterling, dropped as low as 102.800 after hitting a 1-1/2-month high at 103.46 on Monday. It was last up 0.058% at 103.200.
“The dollar is holding relatively stable here, but we are seeing a lot of weakness in other currencies globally,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay.
The dollar gained over 0.5% against the offshore yuan to a nine-month high of 7.3307 as the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) cut its rates in an effort to boost a sputtering economic recovery.
Punctuating those worries, Chinese data on industrial output, retail sales and investment released shortly after the PBOC’s rate cut showed unexpected slowdowns.
“I think the strong U.S. sales data provided some relief to the negative surprise in the Chinese data, so this has pushed risk back up,” said John Velis, head of Americas macro strategy at BNY Mellon (NYSE:BK) Markets in New York.
Against the yen, the U.S. dollar pushed to a fresh nine-month high of 145.865, before dropping to a session low at 145.25. It was last trading at 145.66 per yen.
Traders are looking for any hints of intervention, after the dollar’s surge above 145 last autumn triggered the first yen buying by Japanese officials in a generation.
“It does seem that authorities both at the People’s Bank of China and at the Ministry of Finance in Japan are relatively comfortable with further depreciation in their currencies. However, they’re certainly looking at and certainly prepared to step in if we see a disorderly one-sided move in currency markets,” said Schamotta.
Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Tuesday that authorities are not targeting absolute currency levels when it comes to intervening in the market.
Elsewhere, sterling rose after data showed British basic wages grew at a record pace, adding to the Bank of England’s inflation worries.
The pound was last 0.16% higher at $1.2705 following data showing British wages excluding bonuses were 7.8% higher than a year earlier in the three months to June. That represented the highest annual growth rate since comparable records began in 2001.
The UK unemployment rate, however, unexpectedly rose to 4.2% from 4.0%, but money market traders still expect the Bank of England to raise rates by at least 25 basis points next month on worries high pay growth will lead to second-round effects on inflation.
The euro was last unchanged $1.09045.
The Russian rouble gave up early gains after Russia’s central bank lifted its key interest rate by 350 basis points to 12% at an emergency meeting to try and halt the currency from weakening past 100 to the dollar after a public call from the Kremlin for tighter monetary policy.